Research on the German Armed Forces 1918-1945
Heeresgruppe Afrika was formed on February 23rd, 1943 from the
Deutsch-Italienischen Panzer-Armee and
Organisationsstab Tunesien as a means to unify the complex chain of command
over the many German and Italian units in the Tunisian bridgehead in North Africa. The main
units of the Heeresgruppe were the 5.Panzer-Armee and the 1.italienische Armee.
Generalfeldmarschall Rommel commanded the Heeresgruppe initially, but handed over
command of the unit on March 9th, 1943 to Generaloberst Jürgen von Arnim,
who later surrendered all the Axis forces in North Africa on May 12th, 1943.
When the Heeresgruppe was formed the situation was dim for the Germans being pushed back ever-further into the Tunisian bridgehead. Joint Operations Morning Air and Spring Breeze had just been called off, and although technically they had been a success for the Axis with 2,000 casualties versus the Allies loss of 10,000, the Allies were better prepared to replace their losses, and they were also quick to regain the territory they had given up to the German advance. Kasserine was retaken by the Allies on February 25th, two days after the Heeresgruppe was formed. After the above two joint operations were called off, on March 6th and 7th 1943, Rommel launched an attack against the British 8th Army near Medinine along the Mareth Line in the south of the German bridgehead in Tunisia. The attack made good progress initially, only to slow down and eventually stall against very heavy British defensive fire partly in the form of over 500 anti-tank guns. This failed attack against the Mareth Line was Rommel's last in North Africa, he flew to Germany a few days later where he requested the rescue of his Heeresgruppe back to Italy - a request which was flattly denied. Thereafter he was not allowed to return to Africa to continue his service with Heeresgruppe Afrika, and command of the Heeresgruppe was handed to Hans Jürgen von Arnim who continued the defensive struggle for another two months. This period was punctuated by occasional German tactical attacks and small victories, but the fate of the Heeresgruppe had long since already been sealed. All Axis forces in North Africa capitulated to the Allies on May 12th, 1943, thus ending forever the German and Axis presence in the region.
Gen.Feldm. Erwin Rommel 2.23.43 - 3.09.43
Gen.Obrst. Hans-Jürgen von Arnim 3.09.43 - 5.12.43
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